Memories of Ilford, Stratford and much more
I WAS fascinated by Geoff Courtney’s review in issue 287 of the book Thompson’s B1s, especially his memories of trainspotting at Ilford and its environs in the 1950s. At the age of 16 in 1960 I became a junior clerk in the stationmaster’s office at Ilford. At that time Norwich had gone over to mainly the D200 or D5500 diesels and the‘Brits’were used on the Clacton interval service trains, including the ‘Essex Coast Express’, and I often used to sneak out of the office to watch it come through.
On one occasion I had to walk in the cess to visit the signalbox – no hi-vis clothing in those days, of course. On this occasion I was on my way to the ’box when I heard the chime of a ‘Brit’ whistle on the Down main as it came into view under the flyover, and I had to pin myself against the flyover wall. I clearly remember the heat from the Pacific and the grit blowing around as it sped past.
One of my responsibilities was preparing the pay sheets for the entire station staff. I used to do the sheets in longhand and work out their PAYE contributions and ended up with gross amount and net amounts, and if I ended up one or two pence out, I couldn’t go home until it all balanced. The cash was collected from a local bank by me and a senior clerk and was put in a case chained to the senior’s arm.
On pay days staff members would call at the office to collect their envelopes and I clearly remember feeling slightly uncomfortable when some of the men, who were old enough to be my father, called me, a 16-year-old, ‘Sir.’
After about six months I was transferred to the Ilford Car Shed’s depot master’s office. Although
I was reluctant to go there it was interesting, as at that time the Chingford and Enfield lines had just gone under the wires, thus rendering all those N7 tanks redundant.
One of the big advantages was that instead of walking back to the station after work, I could go to the shunter’s cabin at the London end of the depot and hitch a ride in the driver’s cab of the EMUs going to Liverpool Street for the peak hour trains. If we were on the Up local line, the drivers would slow right down as we passed the Stratford platform to allow me to jump off the moving train to enable me to catch a Central Line Underground train to my home at Woodford. Again, can you imagine that happening nowadays?
After a year I left BR to become a cadet in the Metropolitan Police and in 1963 was posted as a constable to Hackney – there was still steam around on trains to the docks – and while on traffic point duty I clearly recall seeing Jubilee No. 45581 Bihar and Orissa on one such working. Later in 1967 when I was attached to the traffic division at Bow, I took the opportunity to visit Devons Road shed.
I transferred to West Mercia Police traffic division in 1973 working from Worcester and quickly became a Severn Valley Railway volunteer, and have been a working member for 45 years. My eldest son was the general manager there for more than 10 years and is now chief executive of Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust.
During my young trainspotting days my brother and I were always out all day (parents could be quite liberal then), with Stratford station being a haunt, and sometimes we cycled to Aldersbrook beside the cemetery and crematorium to see the ‘Hook Continental’ come through, normally behind a B1, and when I went to school in Chingford, a classmate and I used to go to Ponders End to see ‘The Fenman’ pass, usually B1-hauled.
I remember too a classic trip
I did one day with some fellow spotters from Liverpool Street to Cambridge behind No. 61671 Royal Sovereign and returning on the ‘Cambridge Buffet Express’ to King’s Cross behind B1 No. 61313 after a day’s spotting.
I am also an avid Bullied Pacific fan. I have been a member of the Merchant Navy Locomotive Preservation Society since 1967, and I still have my prized 1967 Ian Allan Combined Volume showing all my ‘cops’ and cabbed locomotives from numerous Saturdays spent on platform 11 at Waterloo. On one day Ian Allan was doing some kind of publicity at WH Smith there, and my Combined Volume is signed by Ian Allan, Haresnape, G. Freeman Allen, GM Kichenside, and two others that look like D. N. Joel and G. Rollington.
Phil Ralls, Pershore, Worcs